My mobile and desktop browsing habits are very different things

Browsing habits are the kind of things that gradually change over time without you even realizing it. If you look back a year ago, I’m sure some of the most visited websites today weren’t even on the top 20 list then. An obvious example is that quarterly goals page from Q3 2011 that you visited every day for a full quarter, and then suddenly never looked at again.

What’s even more interesting for me is how my mobile browsing habits have gradually changed into something very different from my desktop browsing habits. A couple of years ago, I used to visit roughly the same sites on both devices, but over time I found myself visiting some websites more from my mobile, and other websites more from my desktop computer.

Today, the separation is very clear: I almost exclusively use my desktop computer for work-related browsing (wikis, Etherpads, calendars, reports, etc), and I use my mobile phone mostly for casual browsing (news, social media, tech, blogs, etc). Another separation along the same lines is that I mostly use my desktop computer to write, and I use my mobile phone to read.

This actually makes me a little torn about the Firefox Sync implementation on Android today. On the one hand, I absolutely love the fact that I can have convenient access to all pages I visit on the desktop, and I simply can’t live without the pre-filled passwords. But on the other hand, I’m not sure I’m too crazy about the fact that all of those “Top Sites” are mixed together the way they are on the Awesome Screen. At the end of the day, I find it distracting to see ten different flavors of number here], or twenty different Etherpads or wiki pages all mixed up with the handful of sites that I actually do want to visit from my phone.

This is one of the things that I like about the stock Android browser on my Samsung Galaxy Note: it allows me to define exactly how I want the top bookmarks to look like, even in which order they should appear in the thumbnail grid.

Stock browser's bookmarks grid -- pardon the Swedish and poor reading taste.

Some things that would make my use of Firefox on Android feel more awesome:

  • An intuitive, quick way of arranging my top sites and bookmarks and ensure duplicates aren’t bubbling up at the top.
  • An option to view the top sites as a thumbnail grid instead of a list.
  • An option (or simply changed default) to not show the soft keyboard until you hit the text field again — I just want to click the top site rather than type on the keyboard.

Firefox Awesome Screen

All this said, I don’t know what I’d do without Firefox Sync. It really enables me to accomplish stuff on my phone that I previously had to use my desktop computer for. The only downside, I suppose, is that it also makes it that much easier to switch your mind back into work mode after stumbling on that interesting report, or Etherpad, or wiki page that you’re not supposed to read when trying to wind down after a long workday… 🙂

7 thoughts on “My mobile and desktop browsing habits are very different things

  1. LeAnn

    There is some place where I don’t want my thing mixed in. And that is my desktop. I love my desktop clean and only with what I need. Desktop is “my front place”, it is like a face and a browser is a browser. I hate mixing them together. This is what bookmarks are for.

  2. Wes Johnston

    Customizing about:home is high on the list of priorities for the rest of the year (along with customizing the rest of the browser) but changing the awesome screen to be more of a grid hasn’t comeup or been filed yet. File some bugs!

    Also, you can turn off history syncing if you find it doesn’t help. Android Settings->Accounts->Sync.

    I tend to use shortcuts on my homescreen for what you’re describing more. You can open the site, long tap on the urlbar and select “Add to homescreen”. Or long tap on the awesome screen entry too.

  3. Robert Accettura

    I don’t use any sync product between devices. It just doesn’t work for me.

    My mobile browsing habits are totally different. What I do on my work computer is quite different than my personal, so I don’t see a need for sync there either.

  4. zu

    People using their phone and computer for work, read/write on the same sites.

    People using their phone and computer for work, and yet another computer for personal, read/write on the same sites for the first 2 only.

    People using their phone for personal stuff, and computer for work, don’t read/write the same sites.

    People using their phone for work and their computer for personal stuff, don’t read/write the same sites.

    And so on…

    I don’t think that’s either exceptional or a complex behavior. It doesn’t get any more logical.

    I don’t think that’s related to the way Firefox handles topsites no Android. That doesn’t make the topsites organisal issues any lesser, but, it just doesn’t have anything to do with it.

    What’s needed in the op’s case is the option to *choose* what to sync, like you can choose that on desktop. Cause yeah. Less is generally not more, contrarily to popular belief.

  5. David Tenser

    Robert, that’s an interesting idea to not sync history. However, I actually *want* to be able to retrieve history sometimes — it’s just that I don’t want it to blend with my phone’s history. I guess I’d like a way to tell Firefox to sync it into a separate view/folder, rather than mixing it with the stuff already on the device.

    That, or that I could somehow tell Firefox to treat the frecency of sites slightly differently (give websites a lower frecency score) if they come from a remote device.

  6. Nick Alexander

    Hey, nalexander, Android Sync developer here. First, David, thanks for the Firefox Sync love. Nice to hear it’s working out for you.

    There are some interesting ideas in these comments. We have a ticket ( for exposing UI to specify what things to sync on Android, but in the meantime, if you disable syncing something (say History) on desktop, Android should respect that.

    I like the idea to treat frecency in Fennec differently based on originating device, but we’d need to think some more about different scenarios. Does one device “own” a history item? (At the moment, different devices all add history visit data to a single item.) What happens if you visit from multiple devices regularly? Definitely an interesting idea, though.

    I have also been bitten by having,, …, in history. I think any change to display should be on the Fennec display side of things, and I worry that for every user that wants just to appear, we’d alienate a user who wants and to appear for input “xyz”. Hard to please everyone here.

    Anyway, thanks for using Sync and definitely file tickets for bugs and feature requests!


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